The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s deadliest to date and the World Health Organization has declared an international health emergency as more than 2,100 people have died of the virus in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria this year. Ebola is a viral illness of which the initial symptoms can include a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
And that is just the beginning: subsequent stages are vomiting, diarrhea and – in some cases – both internal and external bleeding. The disease infects humans through close contact with infected animals, including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope. It then spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments. Even funerals of Ebola victims can be a risk, if mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased.
Since Ebola is spread through close physical contact with infected people. It is a problem for many in the West African countries currently affected by the outbreak, as practices around religion and death involve close physical contact. Hugging is a normal part of religious worship in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and across the region the ritual preparation of bodies for burial involves washing, touching and kissing. Those with the highest status in society are often charged with washing and preparing the body. For a woman this can include braiding the hair, and for a man shaving the head.
It was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 since when it has mostly affected countries further east, such as Uganda and Sudan. From Nzerekore, a remote area of southeastern Guinea, the virus has spread to the capital, Conakry, and neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A man who flew from Liberia to Lagos in July was quarantined on his arrival and later died of Ebola – the first case in Nigeria. One of the nurses who treated him and an official who came into direct contact with him has since died. “Why Ebola Is so Dangerous. ” BBC News. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.